Saint Louis Public Schools on Family and Youth Homelessness

Saint Louis Public Schools on Family and Youth Homelessness


– Hi, everybody. I’m here at the school board. – St. Louis Public Schools. – St. Louis Public Schools. Deidra invited me. – Yes. – And you’re gonna have to say your title because I can’t remember it. – Okay. Deidra Thomas-Murray, Students-In-Transition Coordinator
and Foster Care Liaison. – So, first, thank you
so much for having me. We just interviewed two homeless moms, and they were wonderful because they were getting so much help from you. I mean it’s just positive, but I was talking to Deidra earlier And in the seven years she’s worked here, the homeless, youth homelessness,
children homelessness has risen from 1700 to 5000, – Over 5000, 5068 students. – And that is crazy and you
want to tell me about that? – Well, when I first took on
the position I just thought the students were under identified, and so we put together a team here at St. Louis Public Schools
and just became vigilant with the support of our
school social workers, school counselors, school
nurses, secretaries and our parent facilitators,
and we just did a better job with identifying
students and families. – So if you are not aware, we
have a crisis in this country with homeless families
and homeless youths. And I would wish these positions… school shouldn’t have you guys. – Right, right. – But thank God they do
– Yes, – Right you know and there’s
rural schools to this is a pretty big school district. So you have a lot of different resources. And there’s an issue about
identifying and counting. So one the younger students,
or not younger students, the younger children who
haven’t reached school age yet, – Right
– Aren’t counted, so when we say over 5000,
it’s well over 5000. – Right, yeah, and I think that number is under recognized because
we have students that aren’t identified so a lot
of times they’re children aren’t in a crisis or aren’t
in need of support services they never make it to our offices. – So you go into the shelter
– Yep – And were talking earlier. You be foster mom
– Yep – And you identify and you
build these relationships and you help homeless families, all the way around, almost full service. – Right and I think now
we’re try to put a lot more emphasis on students that
exhibit challenging behaviors. Because they’re easier to
fall through the cracks, and they are not as likely
to complete high school, so we’re trying to be vigilant
about staying on top of unique cases, in fact,
this is the first year that we’ve begun putting
a red dot on follow up, so if families come through
with unique challenges we know of their folder has a red dot we have to consistently follow up with that particular family. – So it’s got to be so
hard on the families and especially the kids. The one mom I was on just talking to, for 5 years she’s going
from couch to couch, to floor to floor and
so a lot of these kids have to have behavioral challenges and the acting out in different things. – and not just behavior
just trauma, you know, it is difficult I think
that share with you I came here homeless as a
result of hurricane Katrina and during my homelessness, I had five different
addresses in one year. Prior to Katrina I had
lived at the same address for many years and so for many of our families
when everybody’s stressed the emotions are high
and if you’re all living in inadequate housing, you have five families
in a two bedroom house, they’re fighting, they’re arguing and being further traumatized. and so when they get to the schools it, even though it doesn’t look like home, it’s hard to adjust and so so they bring the drama and the trauma to the school, – Right
– and so as educators, as administrators, we have to be equipped to better service families. We have to get outside
of our comfort zone. Homelessness doesn’t look
like somebody pushing a buggy. It looks like somebody angry,
looks somebody’s fighting. It looks like somebody seeking safety or having to use a safe address
because they are being targeted for domestic violence.
– Right – so it doesn’t look the same anymore, and if we keep looking
through a dirty lens, were going to keep missing the mark and not servicing families at all. – Now I know that department
of education counts, a lot of these situations as homeless, but our government doesn’t. – no. But let me say this
on the the McKinney Vento, the law looks a lot different than what our local government. So with the McKinney
Vento, homelessness looks like substandard housing, it looks like families without utilities, without running water, to
many people in one house, or having to meet the
criteria for a permit, whereas with the local
government, doubled up isn’t considered homeless
– Right – because they have a roof over their head – Right and the federal
government to it’s not just local. – Right, but under the McKinney Vento which is a federal act, these families, students are covered education. – McKinney Vento was
the act or law that was passed almost 20 years ago. I believe quite some time ago – I think 1987 and I don’t count to good. (laughing) (crosstalk). – But anyways, it’s a
law to help homeless kids and homeless, and it is really,
you know, comes up a lot for different votes and different
funding and so important, it’s one thing that you can
do and wherever you are, is to support any kind of
legislation that comes through that helps homeless families
and homeless youths, because it’s getting worse. – Right, And it’s getting worse really, the goal of that law is
to eliminate barriers, and when children are in
school, they are safe. They are more likely to
learn, they’re definitely going to get meals, and
so what happened was children who are
homeless, they didn’t have proof of residencey,
– Right – proof of guardianship. So that law kinda clears, paves the way for these families you don’t have to have this to get into school,
– Right. – get in school will figure
it out along the way. So legally they have the
right to immediately enroll and the goal is to remove the barriers, – Any last words you
want people to know about homeless children going to school and homeless families? – I just think the key is today is me, tomorrow is you. We become homeless for different reasons, for some it’s domestic violence,
for some it’s tornadoes, for me it was a hurricane. I just share with folks. Homelessness has no respect of person, – Right
– Families are losing jobs, families divorce and you
end up in unique situations, not by choice, things happen, and so when you encounter families, look through a lens with
sensitivity and not with judgment. I will say you can be the
doctor you can help heal or you can be the judge
and give a life sentence. Homelessness is not a life sentence. Yeah. – Well, thank you everybody. – Thank you.

11 Replies to “Saint Louis Public Schools on Family and Youth Homelessness”

  1. Much Love and keep up the life changing work, wish that public school funding was reliable and not dependent on enrollment rate.

  2. Hi, I’d like to discuss a business inquiry from BBTV in regards to your channel. Is there an e-mail address where I can reach you? Thanks!

  3. It is within our power, as loving human beings, to be the change, for those that are less fortunate. My husband and I met a young homeless man that was sleeping in a cardboard box in the dead of winter and took him into our home. We took him to medical specialists to assess and treat him, asked friends and neighbours to help us, with new clothing and found a compassionate roofer that trained him and gave him a carreer. That was 20 years ago. His back was scarred from beatings from his father, but he carried no animosity toward anyone. He was 20 years old at the time. Today he is married, has a home and has a great relationship with his mother and siblings. We haven't seen him in many years but hear that he has a good life.

  4. homeless families are a growing problem in the united states. currently me and my family right now are in a tuff situation and living homeless in tents in a campground currently. i really hope that the communities could open their eyes and to realize its a growing problem and offer better help and resources! ..i have just made a gofundme account today to try and help as so far ive reached out and have yet to get help for our family ..seems the help is for families who already HAVE a home rather then families who DONT have a home .. just trying to get my story out there for all to see .. https://www.gofundme.com/r7utt-help-our-family-get-into-a-home

  5. When I see families, children on the streets, there's nothing more heartbreaking. How can this happen? Thank you for caring.

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